Review: ‘Heroes Reborn’ Feels Like NBC Drunk-Dialing an Old Ex
I’ll admit to having my fun with the early announcement of Heroes Reborn, at first so unexpectedly plopped into commercial breaks of the 2014 Winter Olympics, and subsequently forgotten for the better part of a year. Undoubtedly a reaction to FOX’s somewhat-successful revival of 24, Heroes Reborn seemed exactly the ridiculous, unwarranted revival (cough, Coach) that NBC might go for, but the snail’s pace development gave it the air of a network drunk-dialing its ex, and hoping like hell no one remembered.
Well, we did. And for as much as I thought to keep up the notion of Heroes Reborn as some elaborate prank, treating tonight’s long-awaited premiere as “The Joke NBC Aired as a Heroes Revival,” Heroes Reborn seem to have taken care of that all on its own.
A tired superhero narrative does not a “rebirth” make.
Heroes arrived on the scene in a different phase of TV culture, and superhero fandom in particular, at a time when its cinematic predecessors skyrocketed in popularity, but lacked the universe-defining vision of the Marvel-verse, or deep allegory etched out by The Dark Knight. At the time, its pastiche of superhero tropes and self-awareness blended well with popular serialized mystery like LOST, but for one reason or another, Heroes never again reached the height of its first season. Blame expanded episode orders, blame Tim Kring’s inexperience with comic storytelling, any number of factors.
I elected not to bother re-watching any past Heroes as preparation, not solely for the series’ unworthiness to demand that of Reborn audiences, but also with hope that a narrower focus on new characters, a shorter run, and time apart could bring a renewed energy to the new generation of Heroes.
Unsurprisingly, no. At least, not in the first three episodes offered to critics.
To Reborn’s credit, you won’t require much command of past continuity to follow along, though very little about the series itself feels any different from the previous iteration. Rather than concentrate on Jack Coleman’s Noah Bennett as the foothold to a new story, tonight’s first two hours again whisk us all over the globe for new characters and tonally-divergent stories, leaning on that old standby of comic scratch title cards to keep all the names and locations straight. Not to mention, Tim Kring’s blender remains as active as ever, throwing in aspects of the X-Men’s Days of Future Past (the comic, not the film), a high school Peter Parker analogue in Robbie Kay’s Tommy, a Batman-esque Harriet Tubman figure (Harriet Batman?) ferrying “EVOs” along an “underground railroad” to Canada, among recognizable elements.
The persecution of powered individuals serves mostly as a springboard, instead zooming in on the conspiracy surrounding a one year-earlier Odessa explosion that supposedly killed our beloved immortal cheerleader, and left Noah with a few gaps in his memory. That too plays into yet another apocalyptic event looming just over the horizon, the vague definition and global reach of which fall into the exact story mechanics that drove Heroes the first time around. Admittedly, Reborn starts to pick up a little steam with its third hour, following a surprise revelation (and uncomfortable admission of how much time has passed) of one character, which sends Noah racing into action, and unfurls a bit of the main arc.
A few more items of note present a sort of camp charm; a character seemingly capable of entering (it not returning to) a video game world, or the slow unfurling of more ripe material for Chuck alum Zachary Levi’s EVO assassin Luke Collins, but ultimately, there isn’t enough to say of Heroes Reborn. It’s nothing so infuriatingly stupid as FOX’s Gotham, but nothing radically different enough to justify NBC’s revival either.
The world has changed, the culture has changed, and so too has the world Heroes Reborn itself dwells within, just not the series’ approach to it. The addition of topical vernacular like “truther” to a tired superhero narrative, does not a “rebirth” make.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- Don’t expect the lion’s share of Heroes holdover characters to pop up just yet (apart from a few references), but there’s an interesting trend of naming buildings after past figures, Linderman, Pinehearst, etc.
- The third episode also incorporates just a bit more stylistic flair than the two-hour premiere, but sadly lacks in some of the fight choreography.
- A Leroy Jenkins reference. ‘Nuff said.
- Someone has a “June 13 - We Won’t Forget” bumper sticker, adorned with an eagle. No.
‘Heroes Reborn’ will premiere with “Brave New World” and “Odessa,” tonight at 8:00 P.M. on NBC.